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I was in a training session today with a Singaporean trainer (lah!) and he kept using the phrase:

"Ok, Ken"

I checked the meeting attendees for a 'Ken' - but there was definitely no 'Ken' in the room.

He kept repeating it, also using the phrase:

"Alright, Ken".

Eventually I inferred that he must be using a contracted version of:

"Ok, I am confident that you can do this."

But I wasn't sure.

I didn't know whether this was a Singaporean English expression (lah!) or if he was just taking a Mandarin phrase in his head, and translating it directly into English.

My question is: In Singaporean English, what does the phrase 'Ok, Ken' mean?


The context was an IT Training course. For example:

Trainer: Here is how to install Azure Migration assistant and perform a Cloud Migration.

[Performs 25 steps]

Trainer: So that is how you use Azure Migration assistant. Ok can.

Or another example

Attendee: [Complicated question]

Trainer: It's easy!

[Talks through 15 steps]

Trainer: So that is how you do it. Alright can.

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    I think you may be hearing the Singlish (Singapore English-based creole language) "OK kena" (“kena” is a Malay term which denotes that something has happened to someone or something.) Possibly "OK kena" means that a topic or matter is complete. Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 8:21
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    Thanks @Michael Harvey. Can you expand that into an answer?
    – hawkeye
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 13:00
  • It's just a guess. An answer needs to be based on knowledge, with references. Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 14:37
  • Great question. Could you give a little bit more context, like what the sentence by the other speaker was that elicited 'OK ken.'
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 14:34

2 Answers 2

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According to Miel's An Essential Guide to Singaporean English - there are many phrases that use can as a verb in a distinctly Singaporean phrasing.

In this context - "ok Ken" is actually "Ok can" ie "ok can do".

And "also Ken" is "Yes I can too".

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    All those examples have 'can' at the beginning, but the OP is asking about it at the end. Do you have any Singlish teaching examples which use it as a particle at the end of the sentence?
    – Mitch
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 14:24
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My Singaporean colleague told me that "Ok ken" or "Ok can" is the way to confirm or acknowledge that somebody will do something.

According to her, this phrase originates from Chinese Mandarin "好的,行" (hao3 de1, xing2). The word "行" (xing2) in Chinese means something is good, ok, can be performed, and ok can do. So Singaporean Chinese people simply converted to English with the word "Can" to represent the Chinese word so whenever they confirm they'll do something, it's "ok can / ok ken".

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